Friday, August 19, 2011

Here's What's Striking Me.

About a week ago, for reasons I'm not quite sure of, I ordered a book about running. It arrived yesterday, and by this morning I had finished it. Safe to say I quite enjoyed it. Man, as I read, the memories came rushing back.

I used to be a runner. Or, more specifically, a sprinter. As an under 15 sprinter I was the fastest kid around, covering one hundred metres in a hair's breadth over 11 seconds (a PB of 11.03, if you're interested), winning a bunch of gold medals and even a state championship. I trained most nights and kept getting faster. It was pretty sweet.

But then the teenage years intervened, and the twin corrupting influences of punk rock and romance loomed larger than running really, really fast. I stopped training and stopped competing. I threw out a bunch of my medals, and used old athletics ribbons for wrapping paper. I was pretty much done with sprinting, and sport in general.

The weird thing was, I kept running. I'd go out to Pete's place, five ks out of town and probably ten ks from my house, to watch videos and listen to records til the early hours, then run all the way home. I'd go to parties at Gibbo's house in Concongella and, when the night was fizzing out, settle into a jog all the way home - a distance Google tells me is about eight ks. And one particular night, when my adolescent angst got the better of me, I started running out to my friend's place in Hall's Gap, making it about twenty ks before someone I knew stopped and offered me a lift.

I didn't ever prepare for these runs. I wasn't ever wearing running shoes, I never had a drink of water with me, I definitely didn't have an iPod in my ears, and I was probably wearing grossly inappropriate clothes. I never really thought about it. I guess I was just running for transport, in a way not dissimilar to Forrest Gump.

When I think about running now, it's with fear. Fear of the injuries that I sustained when I was a sprinter coming back to haunt me, mostly, but also fear for the welfare of my old bones and joints. But reading Born to Run last night reminded me that when I was running around the streets of Stawell I didn't get injured. Despite running in Chuck Taylors and baggy Yakka shorts, for kilometre after kilometre on shitty country roads and firetracks, I never got hurt.

There's something about the simplicity of it that appeals to me now. I'm nervous, of course, scared like I was that first time on the velodrome. But the idea that I could just get off the couch and run, just run until I was healthy again... well, you see where I'm going with this.


nikcee said...

a good runner and a good rider...? sounds a lot like something you spent several hours commenting on yesterday...

didn't you also say you spent a fair bit of time riding mtbs?

mmmm... another person to beat me in our races.

Ryan said...

Haruki Murakami wrote a fantastic memoir called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (after the Carver story). I used to run at Little Athletics, but avoid the activity at all costs now. I ride my bike a lot though, and feel sad when I've been out of the saddle for too long. Murakami's books is an amazing exercise in vicarious affirmation, and jam packed with snippets of gold one liners. I sound like his PR guy. It's just a really really terrific book.

nikcee said...

another vote for that book... i read most of it while staying at JPs for the cross race last year.

damn young kids like sleeping in, and i had heard a bit about him as a writer. i ploughed through it both mornings.

Kiwicyclist said...

Well, I was never a runner. In fact I more or less hated running. But I loved rugby and still get the tingle watching it on the telley. But that doesn't mean I want to risk life and limb to play again. Age and common sense catch up with you eventually.
Running is baaaadddd for you. Stick with riding and enjoy getting old like the rest of us. Stu